Ireland's ancient 'Camino' pilgrimage routes are getting a new lease of life with planned guided walks next month.
Five routes through the valleys and mountains of Ireland can now be completed in the company of local guides.
While thousands of Irish people travel to Spain each year to walk the famous Camino pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela, the refurbishment of Ireland's spiritual pathways is expected to lead to an upsurge in walking trips along the Irish routes.
It could mean millions of extra euro in tourist income in remote parts of rural Ireland. An Irish Pilgrim Passport, modelled on the Camino system of stamping walkers' passports, will be available to be stamped on completion of each route. Those who complete all five routes (125km) will receive a certificate.
Guided walks will take place during Heritage Week, August 19 to 26, along five of the best known routes:
More than two million visitors to Ireland out of a total of nine million last year took part in cross-country walking, helping to boost rural economies away from tourist hubs.
Pilgrim Paths Ireland is an association of community groups promoting local tourism initiatives and enjoyment for walkers and pilgrims alike.
Chairman of Pilgrim Paths Ireland John G O'Dwyer said: "The medieval pilgrimage was originally a journey combining prayer and sacrifice.
"This pilgrim journey is not just for those who enjoy exploring Ireland's ancient tracks, but also the growing numbers seeking to escape the daily grind of life and take time out to reflect and meditate a little while enjoying the outdoors.
"Some undertake such walks in thanksgiving or in remembrance of loved ones. Others go in search of meaning or hope to discover something about themselves.
"The view on Cnoc na dTobar overlooking the Skelligs is the finest in Ireland.
"On St Finbarr's Path, the view of the lake and the church at Gougane Barra is absolutely incredible," he added.
Information is available on www.pilgrimpath.ie.